Future of Macworld Expo up in the air

This year's attendees cautiously optimistic the conference will stay on their calendar without Apple, but much depends on whether IDG can still put together an interesting event.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
3 min read
IDG will have some big shoes to fill without Apple at Macworld: will people still want to come? Tom Krazit/CNET News

Macworld Expo will go on in 2010 without Apple's participation, but what will it look like? And will anybody show up?

We might get an idea Wednesday evening, when IDG World Expo plans to hold a town-hall style meeting open to Macworld attendees to solicit ideas for the future of the show. Apple stunned IDG in December with its decision to pull out of the show completely. It also pulled CEO Steve Jobs from his usual starring role and had Phil Schiller deliver what was widely considered one of Apple's most lackluster Macworld keynote speeches in years.

A handful of conference goers interviewed following Tuesday's final keynote address from Apple cautiously endorsed the idea of an Apple-less Macworld, but said a lot would depend on how the show itself is constructed.

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Northern California resident Peter Speros, a cable technician in San Bruno, figured he would definitely stop by next year's show, since it's basically in his back yard. Speros has attended several Macworld Expos to get tips and information regarding his photography hobby, not so much for the Apple experience itself. Still, "it will be a shame not having Apple," he said.

Macworld has always been about more than Apple to a certain degree: it's a gathering place for the famously tight Mac community to swap stories, ideas, and have fun, said Sterett Prevost, leader of the Tucson, Arizona, Mac users group. "I go to Macworld Expo for the Mac community, rather than Apple," he said.

But if Apple isn't there to bankroll Macworld--the company is estimated to spend $25 million on the show and its booth is easily four times the size of any other--will there still be a place for the community to go? Lili Hampel, who came all the way to San Francisco from Melbourne, Australia, for Macworld 2009, isn't so sure.

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"It's different without Apple; it would be a big difference," she said. Her partner, Les Posen, gives technical presentations on Apple's Keynote software during Macworld, and their attendance at future events would depend at least in part on whether the instructional sessions that are a big part of Macworld would continue.

Still, "we come here to meet people," Hampel said.

That means if IDG can find a way to keep Macworld profitable without Apple's contributions, there might be a way to keep a small core group of Mac loyalists coming to San Francisco each January for Macworld. Macworld 2011 will probably have to be in something much smaller than the cavernous Moscone Center, which might bring the community closer together but would likely doom the show's chances of remaining a must-see destination on the technology media calendar.

Photos: Inside Macworld 2009

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